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Prose

A gentle wind breezed through the old dancehall, dissipating to the corners of the vast open room. Rosa had left the back door through which she’d slid perched slightly open to release some of the musty smell. It was the same smell as the back room of some church she remembered from her childhood days and of the great hallway in her aunt’s house, the grandfather clock standing at the end as a surveyor ticking off the days. She recalled other fleeting images from this time, half-formed memories or dreams, the ones which never go away but you can’t quite put your finger on them; a thermometer, a staircase with a balcony and some other vaguely disturbing scenes which defied physics.

The crack in the door blew in the warm evening air as Rosa surveyed the scene in front of her: a lonely stage with nothing behind it and a few broken seats lying about the place. She fixed ahead and tried to imagine the commotion at this spot of times long gone, the jeering and whooping of the crowd delighting themselves with macaroons and the stage performers bearing their all in a scene whose memories were totally lost and forgotten to the world. She almost expected a flurry of sounds and visuals to arrive, transporting her back to that very moment like you might see on some tacky TV drama. But even she couldn’t trick herself into that. She never could make sensations appear when she thought they ought to. Besides, she was not alone.

Undoubtedly, many people had stood here as she was standing and had the same thoughts. The place was well known as a derelict corner of real nostalgia in this city and was a popular place for urban explorers to visit, taking photographs and looking back at them and convincing themselves of its creepiness. But the place needn’t be creepy. The late sun had cast an ethereal glow on every wall, rays of light split by shadows like those which are sometimes visible as light yellow spears through the clouds when looking up at the sky. Rosa thought to herself that this must have been how religious folk came up with the idea of transcendence into heaven, shining down onto Earth and the tunnel of light we supposedly enter as we die. She thought of how your life is supposed to flash before your eyes. She thought that just before she died, she wanted every memory that is just like this to flash before her; every useful moment of solitude, every sense of good abandonment, all the young conversations in which she stumbled upon a simple truism about life that had somehow remained engrained. No, this idea far from creeped her out. These were the things that gave life. She would also be meeting them soon.

Them’, she chuckled to herself. Of course it’s going to be a he. It was a strange place to meet, naturally. It had been her quirky decision and she had hoped it was not too obvious. Hearing the roar of an engine in the distance and a man yelling ‘reverse – put it in gear and reverse!’ made her realise that most people most of the time are living well and truly in the present, engaged in actions with no thought for the morrow or the days of yore, only the time-being and a single consciousness. She was going to meet someone she talked to on the internet. It was a curious website on which they had met where people are drawn together because of their mutual interests in a certain geographical base, but the other person is anonymous. The idea was that neither person would become corrupted or prejudiced against the other because of what they looked like, where they were from – anything. That way true friendship or love could flourish. Electronic data bears all the fruits of the world nowadays from shopping to the most intelligent writing, to babies, Rosa thought. Of course there are hallmarks, giveaways. Rosa had learned of her virtual other-half that they were perhaps a few years older, for they could remember the Clinton era with great clarity, and because of certain phrases used, such as ‘at the end of the day’ which suggested a Southern, lower middle-class upbringing. The two had discussed feminism and the question of why Eliot was not as studied, not as considered as Orwell, when her moral fortitude was impossible to improve and when she maintained creativity whilst being oppressed – even the oppression coming mainly from within.

Rosa flipped over her bag, observed her copy of Beautiful Losers and considered how apt. She opened a bottle of apple juice she’d forgotten about and watched the orange strip becoming slowly more intense in its incandescence, the sun lowering as a ticking surveyor. She was about to stretch her legs simply just to do something, when she heard leaves crunching outside and the door creep ever so slightly, as she turned her back to it in haste.

Part I.

“Ah mate. I had fish and chips from a chip shop for the first time ever the other day”, Josh reclined with a smirk on his face.

“Oh my god, it was so fucking rough hahaha”.

Sitting nearby was Howard, whose ears perked up as he registered the slightly ridiculing tone. In his intoxicated state, he was bemused by what he said for at least a couple of reasons. Wasn’t it just accepted in Britain that the ‘chippy’ was a staple part of the English diet, and deservedly so? Having recently transferred to the private sphere of higher education, Howard had expected to encounter the clichés of middle-class snobbery. He was instead mildly taken back by what seemed more of a proclamation of ignorance, rather than taste. Going to the chip shop had simply not occurred to sixteen year old Josh, whose exact family heritage had briefly slipped Howard’s mind (although he was sure it was some obscure Asian dynasty), and he etched the feeling in his mind: this is where the division lies. Josh’s world was one of book festivals and pseudo-hippy drapery in their three floored terrace, of day trips to London in the car, the parents uncomfortable glance at the same-sex couple and the university visits that frequented his early memories of childhood. He was going on holiday to America in three weeks. The scampi that Harold had taken to eating for lunch fluctuated in his stomach, a symbolic turning as he got up to ‘grab’ a lighter from the table.

“Ah, damn…sorry man!” He had knocked over a beer that was resting on the side. It didn’t seem to fit well with the ambience of the room. He was rather high, having smoked four or five joints over the last few hours and he couldn’t be fussed with the offending liquid. He retreated to the slouching position he had only realised was so comfortable once he left it, and watched as Joshy flicked through the channels on a type of television he could never imagine having in his own residence. His mind meandered once more until he was walking on the street, going home. Observing a man who must have been aged around fifty-five, but with a younger face and hair,  he mused on how old he would have been whilst he was crawling in the oblivion of infancy. Mid Thirties? How old that man must feel; all those days Harold had spent walking the backstreets home from Primary School, while this guy was piling on the age. The air was so quiet. He began musing on the generation the man belonged to, how they, the post-war baby-boomers were the ones who created this ‘lazy’, ineffectual generation. After all, it was them who had invented microwave pizzas and turkey-twizzler school dinners, mobile phones and big screen T.V’s, used big cars and created a globalized flurry of Disneyland Joy after the boredom of the Seventies. Anodyne seemed the right word for it, which was just what this Town had become. And it had happened to Josh.

Out of this world Harold soon burst (he never loved that name) until he was back in the room, faint daylight reaching through the cracks by the curtains. He saw the beer stain on the floor which neither had apparently bothered to clear up, and pulled a multi-coloured blanket over his toes…the room was getting cooler, and he was lying there thinking. Thinking about the salsa lessons his parents had started attending, and the chip shop incident the night before, his scampi turning once again, and a strange unnerving feeling of disconcertion that the absence of tragedy which perturbed Josh’s world, was suffocating them both.